When the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; sage-grouse) did not warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2015, the agency recognized a coordinated effort of private landowners, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and state and federal agencies that effectively reduced threats to the species. This effort exemplified an alternative model to species conservation that relies on voluntary conservation of private landowners to preclude government regulation. Through one in-depth case study of private landowners’ voluntary sage-grouse conservation efforts in Lake County, Oregon, we explored features of these voluntary arrangements that motivate participating private landowners whose livelihoods depend on livestock production. Using in-depth, semi-structured interviews, we explored how private and public actors implemented sage-grouse conservation, landowners’ production and conservation goals, and perceived foundations for participation. Qualitative analysis of interviews and documentation found that private landowner participation in voluntary arrangements was motivated by well-funded program offerings that were largely aligned with production goals and gave them a sense of control over their economic futures in the context of a potential ESA listing of sage-grouse. Subscription to these programs was largely facilitated by landowner and agency leadership operating as intermediaries. By aligning voluntary conservation offerings with economic and cultural contexts (e.g., using trusted intermediaries to deliver resources to landowners), voluntary arrangements may alleviate reliance on regulatory protections for species conservation where conservation and rural livelihoods intersect.
Wollstein, Katherine L. and Davis, Emily Jane
"A “Hammer Held Over their Heads”: Voluntary Conservation Spurred by the Prospect of Regulatory Enforcement in Oregon,"
Human–Wildlife Interactions: Vol. 11
, Article 5.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/hwi/vol11/iss3/5